This year marks the 50th anniversary of TENNIS Magazine's founding in 1965. To commemorate the occasion, we'll look back each Thursday at one of the 50 moments that have defined the last half-century in our sport.
On the second Saturday of Wimbledon in 2002, the tennis media watched Serena Williams beat her sister Venus for her first title on Centre Court. A day later, after Lleyton Hewitt had made short work of David Nalbandian in the men’s final, a few of us wandered out to the quiet side courts at the All England Club to watch the latest junior sensation try to win her own maiden championship there. But those side courts didn’t turn out to be so quiet. That’s because Maria Sharapova, a 15-year-old Russian via Bradenton, Florida, was running around on them. A wispy blur of long blond hair in a demure white dress, Sharapova screamed her way through most of her shots, and hummed her way through the others. Yet while she was the object of much teen-boy attention that day, Sharapova ended up the loser, in three sets, to her countrywoman Vera Dushevina.
If you had told me that, two years later, this wispy blur of blond would march into Centre Court and run over Serena for the women’s title, I would have shaken my head and laughed. And in fact, when this fantastical result came to pass in 2004, that’s exactly what I did—what else could anyone do? The 17-year-old Sharapova’s 6-1, 6-4 win over Williams, who had won five of the previous nine majors, appeared at the time to be the most unlikely of victories. After what has transpired between those two players in the 11 years since, Sharapova’s lone Wimbledon title only seems more incredible today. Even Maria has to agree.
“I don’t look back at the final very often,” Sharapova told the Daily Telegraph in 2014, on the 10th anniversary of her triumph, “but when I do, I still sometimes feel like, ‘Oh, that moment actually happened.’ It was so inspiring and it was so unexpected in so many ways, at that age and from anyone around me.”